Play review: Coriolanus

LAURIE ATKINSON
Last updated 05:00 29/01/2013
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CUTTING EDGE: Alex carries the big scenes with great confidence in Shakespeare's Coriolanus.% Shakespeare play full of bloodshed and revenge

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Coriolanus by William Shakespeare

Directed by David Lawrence.

The Long Hall, Roseneath, Wellington, until February 2

Reviewed by Laurie Atkinson

 

The actors line up across the stage in typical Bacchanal style – casual and welcoming – at the start of the rarely performed in New Zealand Coriolanus: an unusual introduction to one of Shakespeare's flintiest plays.

Coriolanus presents a picture of Rome that is in striking contrast to the picture Shakespeare paints of Rome seduced by the East in Antony and Cleopatra, which we can see in the forthcoming Summer Shakespeare production.

It is a tough play, full of violent language, bloodshed, revenge and the martial values of valour, honour and love of country.

Despite the informal prologue and the drama to come, the Bacchanal cast swing into action with a vengeance. They drive the play forward with their energy and are unafraid of earning laughs in usually unwanted places. Sometimes they forget about clarity of speech.

The action takes place along the length of the Long Hall with the audience seated in two rows against one side of this unadorned community hall. The costumes are a ragbag of styles ranging from jeans and sneakers to two scheming Tribunes of Rome dressed as the married couple in American Gothic. The battles are played out in slow motion but are strong with suggested violence.

The play has been seen, particularly during the 1930s, as supporting both Left and Right-wing dictators.

There is some excellent work from Brianne Kerr and David Lawrence as the scheming Tribunes, Salesi Le'ota is a smooth Roman Alistair Campbell to Coriolanus, and Michael Ness, a moving Cominius, while Joe Dekkers-Reihana is a virile Aufidius, though he should surely react more strongly to Coriolanus calling him "Boy!"

As Coriolanus Alex Grieg carries the big scenes with great confidence and he suggests, rather than stresses, the psychotic nature of this warrior. When he charges off to side with the enemy rather than stay with Rome ("There's a world elsewhere") and later when he dismisses the plebeians ("You common cry of curs") he reveals the cold heart of this aristocrat. It's a fine performance.

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